WINK: THE NINJA WHO WANTED TO BE NOTICED by J.C. Phillipps (Viking)
Also of interest:
Everybody loves kung fu fighting (and karate...and tae kwon do)!
Twins are considered bad enough luck in 16th century Japan, but when Koji's clumsiness loses him a valuable artisan apprenticeship, he becomes a pariah, fleeing to the forest. He is captured by a band of ninjas, deft and focused warriors whose fighting skills cannot be matched. The training and missions of Koji, and the dawning of his destiny will keep readers absolutely riveted. Koji's growing understanding of his role in the feudal society, strong personal relationships and his desire to keep a code of honor will go far to help children understand that the Teenage Mutant Turtles didn't have anything on the real McCoy! In spite of the dangers and action, the violence in is at a minimum, but the page-turning stays at a maximum. This book earns a black belt for excellence. (10 and up)
MORIBOTO: GUARDIAN OF THE SPIRIT by Nahoko Uehashi (Scholastic) A prince is thrown from a bridge into raging waters. Enter Balsa, a female bodyguard for hire, who rescues him purely out of habit, and then is charged with his protection. Fans of anime will love the action of this story played out against a well-developed fantasy world, and fans of literature will love the equally well-developed characters, and the bravery with which the text speaks to the meaning of power. A hot cutting-edge import and must-have addition to any middle school collection. Haven't enjoyed such good estrogen-fueled martial arts since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (12 and up)
REAL NINJA: OVER 20 TRUE STORIES OF JAPAN'S SECRET ASSASSINS by Stephen Turnbull, illustrated by James Field (Enchanted Lion) Not for the faint of heart, we have an illustrated history of the undercover elite force of assassin known as "ninja," "a word that literally means 'invisible men.'" Unromanticized tales of kidnapping, suicide, arson and assassination are balanced by impressive legends of intrigue, quick thinking, disguise and escape, and descriptions of a macabre but resourceful inventiveness that would have made James Bond proud. The ninja house, ninja weapons and fascinating ninja mythology all get bows of respect here, and exclamation points rightfully abound. A hyper-realistic, detailed painting style brings to mind martial arts movies of the 1970's, and likewise, this book pulls no punches; the red paint comes out on the blades, so a certain fortitude (and non-censoring Shogun library overlord) is required to get from cover to cover. That said, if you are sharing nonfiction books about pirates, the ruthless gangstas of the high seas, in fairness can you have any qualms about a ninja here and there? Readers interested in real military history will find this wild book a little scary, and lot fascinating...I've already seen a few boys practically "hi-YAH!" each other in order to get the next turn at it. (9 and up)
Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.
More Esmé stuff at www.planetesme.com.